Jan 21 2014

2013: A year end farewell in photos

I’ve been blogging a lot lately and it’s the end of an old year and the beginning of a new year so it would seem appropriate to do a year end farewell in photos as I have done in other years. I like to keep a record of the major milestones that we’ve done throughout the year.

January

In January we started off the year with the wee babe’s birthday as usual. As I look back at the photos I took throughout the month, I liked this one the best. Open wide!

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February

In February we headed up to Bowser to spend time with my parents, I got Lasik eye surgery, and we also celebrated my birthday. This photo was taken when Luc and myself went for a chilly walk along the beach while up island.

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March

We spent a lot of time outdoors according to the photos I took and this one was my absolute favourite of my teen in action.

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April

Looks like we were well underway with our gardening in April. Here is a photo of father and daughter playing in the dirt!

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May

We went camping to Pender Island in May of last year with our friends. I got to spend quality time with my besty Jenny, our girls got to hang out and play disc golf at the tournament and the fellas played disc golf and did manly things like chop firewood. We had a very close run in with a fire pit and Violette. Luckily she just singed some of her golden locks.

Photo was taken in the truck at the ferry terminal on the way home (unfortunately I didn’t take an photos camping…).

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June

Wholley doodle. June was a busy month. It was father’s day, Luc graduated from his Bachelor of Commerce program, I went to Tough Mudder as my friend Terri’s support system and the teenager graduated from middle school. I just love this photo of the girls together and I think Jaedyn looks so beautiful and so grown up.

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July

We spent Canada day with my cousin and his family up at his place in Shawnigan. This is a photo of the wee babe at their place enjoying the pool and the sun.

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August

In July we bought a tent trailer and then in August we went CAMPING with friends at two separate spots. We went to Gordon Bay and Horne Lake. I really liked Horne Lake but I was afraid to swim in the water as it was known to have swimmers itch so we found a river not far away where we could cool off. This photo is of the teen and was taken on one of our many walks to and from the river. It was HOT so we liked to use the umbrella.

We also went to my cousin’s wedding where I was the emcee. That was a first! Oh, and I shot my first official wedding as one of the photographers! That was really cool and also a first!!

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September

I guess September must have been a busy month as I don’t have any photos of that month so since I had so many from the month before, here is a photo of us at the lake when we were camping at Gordon Bay.

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October

Moving into October and we spent some more time outside enjoying the Autumn weather. We headed to the Enchanted Forest and also to the Pumpkin patch to get some shots. We also celebrated Luc’s 32nd birthday.

Pumpkin Patch

November

We celebrated Jaedyn’s birthday and then Luc and I hit the road destination Cuba. We spent 2 glorious weeks there just the two of us backpacking around Cuba. What an experience and adventure.

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December

Also an action packed month where my sister-in-law visited for a little over a week and we got to spend time with her over Christmas. Unfortunately, I didn’t pull out my camera once so there aren’t any shots of the holidays. But I did put together a year end holiday video and this photo was taken when we went to see the fireworks on New Year. Panorama had a skate/swim/activity night.

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And there you have it! An action packed year and we’re ready to do it all over again in 2014!

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Jan 20 2014

A Belated Happy Holidays!

I know that this is about a month late but I always like to put up our holiday message on my blog and this year I plum forgot until now!

We would like to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and a Happy 2014!

Please take a moment to view our family YouTube video. Short and Sweet :)
Lots of love, light and laughter for 2014.
Robin, Luc (videographer), Jaedyn and Violette

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Jan 19 2014

Cuba WRAPUP Video

To wrap up our trip to Cuba, here is a video taken from many seats in many cars in Cuba. Enjoy the view and the music.

Adios Cuba!

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Jan 18 2014

Cuba Day 14: Adios Cuba

I awoke at 5 to the most god awful smell coming in the room. Some terrible truck with bad exhaust must have been parked outside cuz it was so freakin terrible for so long.

I think I manage to go back to sleep only to awake again at 6. Luc was awake too.

Shortly after that, Luc went for a swim and then we packed. We ate a glorious breakfast at the casa again and then a had one final sit on the balcony preparing for the day.

9:35 arrived and there was the taxi driver. The richest man in Cuba probably. He was a doctor (earning 25cuc a month). Only worked a week a month, had a house in Mettanzas with 6 bedrooms and 6 bathrooms – 3 of which he rents out. And he drives tourists to and from Havana for day trips at 100cuc a day. Lastly, he had a killer sound system and a mini tv in his car that he put on a music video that he said we needed to watch. I ended up buying the CD at the airport.

Safely delivered to the airport, we checked our bags, paid our airport tax, went through immigration and then had about 2 hours to kill.

Nothing to do but wander the airport and put my foot up (yep, still swollen and nursing a big black bruise).

Into the airplane and instead of a 5 hour 15 min flight, it’s going to be a 6 hour flight. Kill me now. AND we have to get our luggage in Calgary and then recheck it in again. Stupid.

The flight wasn’t that bad – just looooooong. And in Calgary we had wifi fiiiiiiiinallly. Got to talk to my mom and the girls. We were sending photos back and forth.

Rechecked the bags, back through the scanner (drug tested/bomb tested with a swab on my hand – guess I look like a criminal or my past strip search when I was 18 is catching up with me) and back into the last plane.

So a little back tracking. The guy at the West Jet desk in Cuba ‘seemed’ to be a jackass. I asked him if Luc and I could sit together on the long ride to Calgary. Nope was his answer. Barely said two words to us, didn’t tell us where we had to pay the airport tax (so we wandered a bit) and just was a general unfriendly Cuban. Turned out that Luc and I actually did sit together (thanks to him) AND the best part of it was that for the flight from Calgary to Victoria, we were in row 1 seat A and B with no one in seat C. First class baby! Loads of foot room, free snacks (better than the cheap seats), free drinks, and first off the plane! Oh and we didn’t have to pay for it. So I guess that guy wasn’t so bad after all and I must say it was the best ending to our day and trip. Thanks West Jet!

So after much reflecting about our trip (I’m writing this part a month and a half later) I am so glad that we backpacked and ‘winged it’ (if any of you know me, you know I’m not a ‘winger’. If you went to Cuba to go to an all inclusive from Victoria, you might as well just go to somewhere closer as you’re only at the beach and the resort anyway, and Cuba is an amazing place to see and experience. This country is packed with culture, history, friendly Cubans, beautiful architecture, interesting politics, etc… it’s probably one of the safer places to travel (crime is really low – locals are afraid of what will happen to them I think) and poverty is also pretty low due to the fact that most people are paid the same amount of money regardless of if you’re a doctor or a hairdresser).

As a tourist you’re a prime target for getting ripped off or paying too much – but how is that any different than any of the other places you go that you have to negotiate prices for everything? There is also pick pockets but there are also pick pockets in Europe and even Victoria.

If I was to go back there again I would definitely backpack for at least a week and then head to the all inclusive for a week – I mean, while you’re there, you might as well take advantage of the all inclusiveness that Cuba does have to offer. Some culture, some beach/relaxation. Yeah.

So all in all, Luc and I are definitely going to head back again at some point. But you just know that that country is about to morph into the 21st century any day now. It just has to – which is a little unfortunate as it’s behindness in technology, big box stores, commercialism, marketing, etc… is what makes Cuba so incredibly interesting. I’m so fortunate to have been able to experience Cuba like this as I fear that in a few short years it’s about to explode like the rest of the world and come on the scene as everywhere else has. In Cuba you are forced to disconnect with the rest of the world. Will you be able to do that in 5 years? I doubt it. It feels a bit like it’s the last untouched place where you can head back in time. Before the internet, before Costco and Walmart, before grocery stores carried everything you could ever want, before people stared at their phones 24/7, before we were all so ‘connected’ with technology rather than being connected as humans with each other.

If you’ve ever thought you wanted to visit Cuba, learn Spanish and do it now. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

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Jan 17 2014

Cuba Day 13: Buying souvenirs and back to the beach: Last day in the Caribbean

Ankle feeling better still but still swollen and surprisingly I seemed to have pins and needles in my foot and toes for a big portions of the day.

Lots to do today.

We rode a double decker alllll the way out to peninsula where the resorts are located. Glad we did it but it was pretty uneventful.

Then we stopped in at an artisan market to get the last of out gifts.

I rode in the double decker back to the casa to put ice on my foot (although the fridge wasn’t working so no ice – LAME). While Luc went to the bank to get a bit more money and some cream and a tensor for my ankle.

He came back here and we jetted to the Internet cafe across the road for a mere 7mins of internet time where we unsuccessfully didn’t checkin and tapped out a one minute email to my mom.

Then out to the beach for one more glorious session at the ocean. I stayed in the shade reading my e-book while Luc swam and went for a run. I never made it into the ocean – the walk in the sand is pretty painful.

Then back to the casa for a shower and more ice on the balcony. Luc threw his last Spider-Man toothbrush over the balcony to the 3 year old boy who is the next door neighbour. We watched our last sunset over Cuba.

We also secured our ride to the airport by me yelling over the railing asking a local if he could drive us. He said he would be there at 10 for 20cuc.

Our final dinner at probably the best place we’ve eaten at to date for the best value. We rehashed our trip. The good, the bad and the ugly (Guanbo Luc? LOL!)

Then back to the room to relax and read before our last sleep in Cuba.

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Jan 16 2014

Cuba Day 12: A familiar place – Varadero

Wow. When you want to leave a place you really want to leave it.

Terrible sleep last night on the bed. Woke up at 1 and couldn’t sleep for like two hours.

Luc had the start of a horrible stomach and later in the morning would progress to Momtezuma’s revenge. We think it was the pizza. I ate it as well but probably ate about half as much as he did. Thankfully I wasn’t too hungry.

We awoke at 6:15 to the sound of many barking dogs. Forget this. Let’s get the hell out of this town. Back to Varadero which will be our final resting place before heading on the plane on Saturday.

My ankle looked like the swelling had subsided for the time being. Bruised for sure.

At 7 we told the owners we weren’t staying and that we weren’t going to have breakfast either. Luc tried to call the taxi number we had found in town and about half way through the phone call it was cut off. A cell phone. So the casa owner said he had an amigo that could help us for 60 cuc. We said that the guy in town was 50$ and would he do it for that? He agreed.

And we chose this taxi option as it will take considerably less time than going back to Havana in a 10$ cab ride and then a 20$ bus ride.

But then Luc asked for it to come in an hour at 9 even though we were already to go. WTF. And on top of it he didn’t actually arrive until 9:40!! And that’s what I mean about not wanting to stay somewhere a moment longer.

After a $50 taxi ride to Varadero, we are finally here again. It feels good and safe to be back.

We located our casa (which is amazing compared to the last one), dropped our bags and headed to get a bite to eat and swim in the ocean.

My ankle was better but still swollen. I went into the ocean but didn’t put any weight on it and stayed close to shore. We lounged there for a couple of hours. Luc went for a walk down the beach for a bit while I read a kobo book.

Then back to the room to shower off, ice my foot and rest.

Then out for a nice dinner at a seemingly fancy restaurant.

In bed by 8, asleep by 9.

Ode to my girls
I can not wait to see your flowing red hair and your golden mop of curls
Feel you adult arms wrap around my shoulders and your chubby cheeks pressed against mine.
Look into your rich hazel eyes and bask in the almond blues.
Hear your similar voice to mine and the chirpy toddler sounds.
Listen to how your world has changed and learn all the new words you can say.
I miss you both with all my being, my love.
Three more days.

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Jan 15 2014

Cuba Day 11: Shitballs and Guanabo

Ah fuck. (Sorry for the vulgar language but really…)

So we get up in the morning, pack the bags, hit the bank, negotiate a price for the taxi to Guanabo, and then I fall off a curb in Havana and twist my right ankle. Yeah the one I ALWAYS twist. With three days to go, thankfully all our intention was was to lounge on the beach.

Man it was sooooo painful when it happened. Big backpack on my back, small pack on my front. Landed badly on the side of the sidewalk, rolled my ankle, landed on my left knee on the sidewalk while my backpack came down hard on me pushing me to the dirty sidewalk.

There were Cubans all around me wanting to help, Luc was there and all I could say was “just give me a minute it hurts so bad”. As we sat on the side of the road and I writhed in pain and the Cubans and my loving husband looked at me.

(Luc just said to me “of course the roads are so tragic in Havana and Trinidad but of course you fall off a curb that would be similar to a big curb in Victoria.” my retort was “of course I’d be wearing double backpacks in downtown Victoria.”)

After 5 mins I got up and soldiered on to the cab. A 25 min cab ride we arrived at a casa that is more like an apartment with a living area, kitchen, dining area.

We headed off walking which probably wasn’t a good idea for my ankle that was feeling surprisingly good after popping two Advil.

We grabbed a couple of pizzas, Luc bought a towel (as he had forgotten his somewhere) and headed to the beach.

When we got there, my ankle had swelled. Eek! Luc found me a couple of rocks to put my foot up on and he went for a dip. The beach was a little tragic.

We stayed there for about an hour before some crazy drunk Cubans showed up and we decided to leave. I couldn’t watch the woman drown.

We hit the grocery store for supplies and the caught a bike taxi back to our casa. We had a shower and then relaxed in bed for a couple of hours to rest my ankle.

The casa owners have been great. They gave me a pillow for my foot, put out an actual “Welcome” mat (wish I took a photo) and have been very accommodating and concerned about my ankle.

Luc grabbed pizza from down the street and brought it home for us to eat. Yeah pizza again.

My ankle is feeling worse and tight. Swollen. We’re debating what we should do tomorrow. Rest again or take off the Varadero. I guess we’ll see how my foot is tomorrow morning.

I feel so stupid. I always twist this stupid ankle and again 3 days before we leave. I swear it was the same in Switzerland a few years ago. Although that was much worse as I needed crutches and couldn’t put any weight on my foot. Man I hate this.

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Jan 14 2014

Cuba Day 10: A double decker tour of Havana

After a nice breakfast (which we think could have caused some short term weirdness in our bellies but nothing to show for it), we set out to Park de Central to find a double decker bus to tour us around Havana.

We stopped at the Capitol building which looks almost identical to the Washington monument.

Then onto the 5 cuc bus tour on the top deck. The wind was nice but frightfully hot when we stopped at a red light. You can hop on and off but we just stayed on. Surprisingly, we had already covered a lot of it by either foot or coco taxi. Also passing by our Vedado casa a couple of times.

After we arrived back at Central Park we went in search for the Cuban art museum. Pretty cool art is being created in Cuba present day. This art museum dated back to the early 1800′s. There was hardly anybody in the museum except for the Cuban guards everywhere.

Then we grabbed lunch at restaurant called Pergola where beautiful live Cuban music was playing. We sat in an inside/outside area, enjoying a frosty Corona and Bucanero while relaxing to the music.

After that we walked to this famous restaurant called : La Bodeguita Del Medio to take a photo. A lot of the Cuban art has the restaurant sign in it.

Wow, I was knackered so we’re now back at the casa relaxing and getting out of the heat.

After a three hour siesta, we lounged on the small terrace and watched the people walk by for about an hour then off to find a restaurant.

We checked 6 restaurants before landing on the one that we did. I think I’m missing hamburgers. We chatted with two Danish girls and they just happened to be staying at the place where we wanted to head the next day so it was great to chat with them and get a really good view of the beach and the town. They gave us a name of the casa that they are staying in if we’re interested in checking it out.

Them an uneventful walk back to our casa and off to bed.

Some thoughts:

  1. Cuba is such an interesting country. There is so much culture here that it is easy to get sucked up in its beauty.
  2. Traveling through Cuba is so simple without renting a car. There are so many modes of transportation available out there and from the people we’ve talked to, even the people who do rent cars don’t really like it.
  3. The food has its good moments and it bad. If you want a cheap meal you’re going to get your standard fish, shrimp, lobster, chicken, beef, pork with rice, salad, beans option or if you want something a little different, you will pay extra.
  4. It’s damn hard to find grocery store and if you do, there is hardly anything on the shelves. Our favorite lunch bought from a grocery store so far is olives and potato chips.
  5. I heard there is a Mcdonald’s here somewhere but thank god Cuba hasn’t been bit with big box stores and fast food chains. That would wreck the beauty that Cuba is.
  6. Air pollution is a big problem here due to the cars. In big cities it can stink a lot. Thankfully in old Havana, most of it is a walking town with little access for cars so it’s not too bad here.
  7. I am so happy that we didn’t stay in an all inclusive. It would have been a totally different way of being in Cuba. And doing that wouldn’t have exposed me to all that Cuba is and has.
  8. I’m also really happy to visit at a time when things are still the way they are. There is a lot of inevitable change coming for Cuba and it’s going to be interesting to see how Cuba goes through that change but I’m content that I got to see Cuba before it’s big change.
  9. And lastly, Cuba is an incredibly safe country with beautifully smart well educated people that are passionate about their country and their beliefs in their world. They so are friendly and welcoming.

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Jan 13 2014

Cuba Day 9: Old Havana

It was hard getting up this morning to pack my bag at 6:30 after a tragic nights sleep but I did it.

We left the casa around 7am and caught the Viazul bus at 7:40.

3.5 hours in the bus where I slept intermittently, we arrived back at the same bus depot only two days ago. It was nice to see a familiar place.

The cab was going for 8cuc. Much too expensive so we started to walk with all our shit under the blazing sun.

Just as we were thinking it was a bad idea, a beautiful car showed up and offered us a ride for 5cuc so we took it.

Off to old Havana. We had 3 reservations lined up but after walking a little bit we found a nice casa on Brasil St by a little old man that Luc could talk to in Spanish who has lived in Havana since he was 9 years old.

We walked and walked and walked. The architecture here is old and a photographer’s heaven. There are quite a few tourists but that’s to be expected.

We combed the streets and ended up at the market that sells EVERYTHING Cuba wise. We did some shopping for our friends and relatives. After a while Luc was sick of it (of course I could have kept going) but we headed back to our casa.

After a lovely cold (my choice) shower we hung out on the terrace watching the people go by.

After a good amount of relaxing we set off for dinner at a nice place on the square where they severed skewers of meet. By the way, I’m still not sick!

As of this point it’s 9:38 and I’m knackered and in bed, preparing for another day under the sun, sightseeing tomorrow.

I miss my Vivi. I miss my girls so much.

Things I’m sick off:

  1. Stray dogs. Put they out of their suffering misery.
  2. CFL lights. Feels like the ugly lights of a bar ALL THE TIME.
  3. People offering taxis. If I want one, I’ll damn we’ll ask you.
  4. Beggars in the street that follow you. Stop already.
  5. Stinky cars. You stink. All of you. And you’re polluting my air.
  6. Canadian casas that rip you off. Why? (Luc supplied)
  7. No Selection of white wine. Well, kind of, it’s terrible Spanish wine.
  8. Having to pay for the washroom (toilet paper) that doesn’t have a fuckin toilet seat.
  9. The sticky heat. It’s all encompassing. And my sweaty upper lip.
  10. Hard beds.

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Jan 12 2014

Cuba Day 8: Cayo Jutías – THE BEACH!!!

We hired our casa owner, paired up with the Dutch couple we met in the square yesterday and headed off to Cayo Jutías.

After a 1.5 hour drive, we were met with white powder sand beaches, turquoise blue warm ocean, mangroves, the occasional palm tree. It was bliss.

I lazed on the beach for 5 hours reading my book. Taking the occasional dip to cool off. And that was seriously all I did for 5 hours.

Luc and Franka (the Dutch woman) went snorkelling after renting a boat and driver.

3 times I asked Luc to get me a beer when he went to the bar (which was probably 1 km  away. 3 times he forgot. Ugh! But that’s ok, because we ended up eating fresh lobster right on the beach with french coconuts!

We left the beach sun kissed around 4:45 and then drove back under the full yellow moon.

After arriving back at our casa we went for a dip in the above ground pool on the roof of the casa. It was a bit chilly but so refreshing.

Then we changed and splurged by eating out at el Olivo. Beautiful smoking hot lasagna and veal to die for. We had a cold bottle of red wine (which Luc detested that it was cold but I couldn’t bear to drink 30 degree wine so I win).

Wow, all the food, the wine and the sun DID ME IN. On the walk back I wasn’t sure I wasn’t going to make it home.

But I did and promptly flung myself into bed to sleep yet another restless night.

What a positively perfect day.

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